Îles du Salut weighs a black legend, as many years ago the islands were a terrible French penal colony. Located on the coast of Guiana, they are formed by the Île du Diable, the Île Royale and the Île Saint-Joseph. The Île du Diable, which is the smallest of the three, was used exclusively to confine potilical prisoners, while the other two islands were reserved for prisoners who had disciplinary problems in the continent.
Established in 1852, the conditions of the penal colony in their early years were really painful. The presence of the yellow fever and others diseases such as malaria caused the death of hundred of prisoners, and the mortality arrived to 63%.
Inmortalized in the book and movie “Papillon” or in the more accurate “La guillotine sèche” (Dry Guillotine), the French Guiana was home to thousands of prisoners who never made the journey back to France. What diseases didn’t make were done by the living conditions: stone cells, meager rations, forced labor and solitary confinement, besides torture and corporal punishment.
Îles du Salut ceased to function as penal settlement in 1953. Today it is a tourist destination visited by thousands of people every year. They belong to the European Space Center, which is based on the mainland, 24 km. from the islands.